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take vengeance upon his enemies, and to trample them in his fury:
"And he had in his hand a little book open; and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot upon the earth."
Of the use of the little book we shall see below. The position of his feet, if we have respect to the situation of Patmos, may denote that both Europe and Asia would be the scene of the subsequent judgment:
"And he cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth." That is, with a voice of tremendous threatening. This voice is answered by seven claps of thunder, that roll articulate sounds:
"And when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices. 4. And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not."
This is, indeed, most mysterious. It should seem something was revealed to St. John which it was not deemed necessary that the church should know, at least, not at that time. It appears not improbable that the seven thunders explained to the apostle the general meaning of the seven seals, as far as the sounding of the seventh trumpet; all of which have been explained to us by the event, but which, to the apostle himself, must have been totally obscure and unintelligible. This notion is, perhaps, confirmed by the circumstance, that the remaining emblems have, all of them, explanations attached to them; but the seals and trumpets have none,
Compare Isaiah, liv. 8, 9.
except the thunders gave them. And it was, perhaps, the will of Christ, that they should only be known to his church by their fulfilment, and not by that till towards the time of the end:
"And the angel that I saw standing upon the sea and upon the earth, lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by Him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are therein, and the earth and the things that are therein, and the sea and the things that are therein, that there should be time no longer. But in the days of the voice of the seventh trumpet, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God shall be finished, as he hath declared unto his servants the prophets."
We may, perhaps, explain this passage," that the time shall be no longer deferred,”—the time for publishing to the church the explanation afforded by the seven thunders; "but in the day of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound,"-or," shall sound,' or, "be about to sound,"-" then shall the mystery of God be finished." Or we may thus consider the passage more generally, without reference to the thunders. The words of the oath are,-" That time," or, " delay shall be no longer; but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall sound, the mystery of God, as he announced to his own servants, the prophets, shall also be finished." That is, in due course and order after he hath began to sound, the events that accomplish the mysterious word of prophecy shall begin to go forth till all is finished. The finishing of a mystery may signify the disclosing it, so that the mystery is explained, and the initiated are admitted to learn its most secret arcana.
Sir Isaac Newton has some very important remarks that touch upon this point. Speaking of this prophetic
book, he says, it "is called Revelation, with respect to the Scriptures of truth, which Daniel was commanded to shut up and seal till the time of the end; and until that time comes, the Lamb is opening the seals: and afterwards, the two witnesses prophesy out of it a long time in sackcloth, before they ascend up to heaven in a cloud; all which is as much as to say, that these prophecies of Daniel and John should not be understood till the time of the end. Then,' says Daniel, many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.' This is, therefore, a part of the prophecy, that it should not be understood before the last age of the world; and, therefore, it makes for the credit of prophecy that it is not understood. But if the last age, the age of opening these things, be now approaching, as by the great successes of late interpreters it seems to be, we have more encouragement than ever to look into these things. If the general preaching of the Gospel be approaching, it is to us and our posterity that these words mainly belong: In the time of the end the wise shall understand. Blessed is he that readeth and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things that are written therein.”1
Many expositors 2 are of opinion that the sounding of the seventh trumpet marks, at its commencement, the coming of the time of the end-the termination of the period of the " time, times, and a dividing of time," the one thousand two hundred and sixty years of Daniel:
1 Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and St. John, page 240, &c.
Bishop Newton, Mede, Whiston, Dr. More, and Mr. Coninghame, all concur in think
ing that the one thousand two hundred and sixty years terminate at the sounding of the seventh trumpet, or at the end of the sixth.
and what much confirms this notion, is a comparison of the oath here sworn by the great angel with Dan. xii. 7 :
"And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him that liveth for ever, that it shall be for a time, and times, and an half." So here, in the passage before us, the same awful interposition of an oath, by the Everlasting, points to the sounding of the seventh trumpet-and to the commencement of his sounding, as it should seem — for the coming of that great epocha, and, in due course, the solution of all mystery concerning it, which he had declared to his servants, the prophets. This is the awful oath of the Almighty we met with in the early part of our researches, in "the Song of Remembrance," as announcing the dreadful judgments to fall on the last foes of the church of God:-" For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, As I live for ever, I will whet my glittering sword," &c. *
8." And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, Go, and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel, which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth; and I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book: and he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth. as sweet as honey: and I took the little book out of the angel's hand, and ate it up, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter: and he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings."
The apostle is prepared afresh to continue his pro
• Deut. xxxii. 40, &c. Compare Isaiah, xiv. 24.
phesying, and he is again installed, as it were, in his office. Such I conceive to be what is meant by this figurative act of eating a little book, which the angel gives him. He is to take and digest it well. Sweet will be the employ to learn the mysteries of God; but if the prophet has a heart to feel for the miseries of his fellow creatures, so many are the scenes of mourning and desolation, of treachery and apostasy, to be disclosed, that it cannot but fill him with the most sorrowful and bitter reflections. He will be ready, with the affectionate prophet of old, to exclaim, "My bowels, my bowels! I am pained to my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace: because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet; the alarm of war. Destruction upon destruction is cried."*
Such I conceive to be all that is meant by the visionary eating of a little book by St. John. The prophet Ezekiel had a similar installation into his office when sent to prophesy to the contumacious Jews. He was made to "eat a roll written within and without, with lamentation, and mourning, and woe." A bitter duty had he to perform; but he said it was within his mouth as honey for sweetness."
All this strongly marks the importance of this last division of the Revelation, for which we are being prepared-the sounding of the seventh trumpet.
The seventh angel, we are to bear in mind, doth not yet sound. The train of prophetical events is still, for some time, suspended, in order, by a distinct set of visionary scenes, to reveal to the prophet symbolical representations of the character of the parties that should
• Jeremiah, iv. 19, &c.